Lum-Tec watches was the first microbrand to enter my collection about 10 years ago (before "microbrand" was a commonly-used term). I received it as a trade, but I was really excited about it. Perhaps it was because the brand is based in Ohio, which is where I have lived since the mid-aughts, or perhaps it's just because we in the watch hobby love lume. Either way, I ended up owning a few of them over the years.
More recently I hadn't been paying attention to them, perhaps because so much additional competition has entered the space? Either way, when a friend offered me one of Lum-Tec's more recent models in (yet another) trade, I was excited to see what the brand had been up to lately.
The catch? It was one of its quartz models, the Vortex. The one in question was the D2 model, with yellow trim. It looked great it photos, and I liked the utility of it being solar, so I decided to try it out.
Besides never needing winding or battery changes, the other unexpected benefit of the solar-powered Vortex is its dial. It takes on a deep glossy look that shifts from black to a deep purple depending on the light. The dial also has an attractive look of depth within the case. the thick internal bezel, and domed sapphire further add to this look of a deep recess.
Upon closer inspection, in bright light, one can see the segments of the solar panel. The Seiko VS42A movement also has kept its date disc. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to see the numerals. It would have been a fun touch if Lum-Tec had made it more visible, like a ghosted date to keep the clean look. Full-disclosure, I'm such a nerd that I still had to set the almost unreadable date to the correct number.
Wearing the Vortex
At 42mm, with fairly compact lugs, the Vortex is very wearable. Its dark gray color, a.k.a. "Military grade Titanium Carbide gunmetal tone PVD hard coating," and thick, round bezel help to visually shrink it on the wrist. Shorter lugs help, and at 104g with the supplied strap, it is fairly light.
Lum-tec advertises a 12mm case thickness, but the total watch is 13.5mm if you include the domed crystal. Not thin, but completely wearable for a tool watch. It also helps if you remove the standard pass-through strap and install a two-piece like the Ridge Rubber pictured here.
As noted, the included strap is a fairly standard 1.3mm thick nylon "Military style strap with matched gunmetal PVD hardware." It features three metal ring keepers, like a zulu-style strap. It matches the watch quite well, but of course I've been wearing it on a variety of our straps.
Lum-Tec uses X1 grade Super-Luminova with its own MDV technology on the Vortex D2. Hour markings glow in green, while all three hands, plus minutes 20 through 55 on the bezel glow in blue. The first 15 minutes of the bezel are yellow during the day, and green at night.
While the lume is very striking, and photogenic (especially on one or our new Luminous Watch Straps), it is not the brightest compared to other watches that I've owned. My guess is that it is difficult to apply lume to a solar panel, but for a brand with "Lum" in its name, I had hoped it would be a bit brighter. Still, it was very fun to look at, and does last throughout the night.
My biggest complaint related to legibility, however, is the hands. While X1 is supposed to be some of the best lume available, it is applied in tiny strips only at the center of the broad, but dark-colored hands. A larger lume surface would have made the watch much easier to read, day or night.
I found the dark gray color of the case very attractive, especially when combined with the unique helical-cut pattern applied to the bezel and crowns.
Yes, this is a dual crown watch. Although Lum-Tec doesn't advertise it as such, it seems to meet all of the requirements of a diver. It uses a locking uni-directional bezel, which is a unique feature, especially for a watch at this price. It a bit of play in either direction when adjusting it, but it was easy to get it lined up with 12 o'clock, and didn't move once secured. It also looks very cool!
The Vortex D2 uses a solar-powered Seiko VS42A movement. Just one minute of sunlight produces a full day of power, and 6 months of power can be achieved after only 5 hours of sunlight. Even someone with a large collection should be able to give it enough light to keep it running, but if not, the second hand will beat at 2 second intervals when the charge gets low.
The movement is also mounted inside the case with an anti-shock system. Its accuracy is rated at +/- 20 seconds per month.
Lum-Tec's parent company, Weigan Custom Watch says that the Lum-Tec brand was created to showcase its capability for producing unique watches for other customers. This capability can be seen throughout the details of the Vortex.
While its $585 MSRP might seem bit expensive for a 3-hand quartz watch, that cost is put to work providing unique touches, and improved specs. These include the internal ratcheting bezel, military-grade technologies and finishes, Viton seals, and the anti-shock mounting system. The brand also includes free lifetime pressure testing and seal cleaning.
Add to that the fact that the watch was designed, hand assembled and fully tested in Ohio, and it becomes a compelling every day grab and go option.
What is your favorite lume? Do you own any solar watches? Let us know in the comments!
Name: Lum-Tec Vortex D2
Reference Number: LTSOL-D2
Dimensions: 42mm diameter, 48mm lug-to-lug, 13.5mm thick, 22mm lug width
Movement: Seiko VS42A Solar Quartz
Power Reserve: 6 months on full charge (5 hours of sunlight)
Water Resistance: 200m
Crystal: Double dome sapphire with double side anti-reflective coating
Bezel: Internal rotating, unidirectional, 120 click
Strap/Bracelet: 3 ring military-style nylon